Interwebs killed the record store

Not long ago, the music industry primarily relied on shiny discs of digitally encoded audio as a means to distribute the works of musicians, singers, DJ’s, whatever… Oh, how times have changed! In a mere 10 years, the digital audio on those discs remained digital, but was compressed to a tiny size and pretty much became free to whoever wanted it. My first job after graduating college was at CD and DVD wholesale distributor, which was directly affected by this sudden change in distribution.

At the same time, large retail chains were also getting into selling physical copies of music and movies – another death knell for those poor little record stores. Very few have survived and those who have are either tiny or huge. Even Virgin Megastores and Tower Records are gone and those seemed like they’d be around longer. Blockbuster used to sell music and any that are still around only focus on movies. It’s a weird time to see such drastic change in something that was once so familiar and so exciting.

My last visit to a record store was just the other day, but before that – it was Record Store Day or maybe an Amoeba in-store. Focusing on the live aspect of music has helped larger stores like Amoeba, but Virgin used to have them too. Any reasonably successful musician today is more likely to rely on touring and live performances than record sales – digital or physical. I’m a little surprised at how people who are just half a generation younger than me have a larger digital library than a physical music collection.

I know certain people still collect vinyl, but that’s not too common and though the sound may be warmer or richer – it’s just not as easy to carry as an ipod. A large part of Apple’s success in the past 10 years has been iTunes and iPods. They’ve profited hugely off the move to digital and are now in the process of crafting a spaceship to demonstrate that. Kudos to Apple on their success, if only the record industry hadn’t suffered so much in part to it. Life always changes along with technology, so it was inevitable.

If you think about it, a lot of stuff was a bit overpriced. I usually frequented the bargain and clearance CD bins more than any, but that never really helped the companies who may have been charging a lot in the first place. Book stores seem to be following the way of the record store, with Borders pretty much out and Barnes & Noble moving more digital. Maybe if Amazon had physical stores there would be a growth in book stores, but that’s unlikely as Amazon has moved on from just selling books.

Dire predictions aside, at least technology is improving our lives – at least until Skynet takes over.

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